Last week, I had the pleasure of attending do-gooding environmental and humanitarian nonprofit Global Green’s 12th annual Sustainable Design Awards here in New York.

Part fundraising event and part celebrity-studded awards ceremony, a handful of individuals and organizations responsible for innovative and impact-making designs — as in the plan/plot/project sense of the word, not eco-friendly interior, home, or product design like you’d read about on this there blog — in a variety of categories were honored by Global Green over the course of the evening: Bill McKibben and May Boeve of (Organizational Design), Steve Elfman of Sprint (Product Design), Arthur Rubenfeld of Starbucks (Green Building Design Award), Henrik Fisker of Fisker Automotive (Corporate Design Award), and, last but not least, Brooklyn-based actor, activist, and organic wine-peddler, Adrian Grenier, who received the Entertainment Design Award. One of Grenier's more recent eco-endeavors includes, a green lifestyle site the "Entourage" star launched with film producer Peter Glatzer (read about auto blogger Jim Motavalli's encounter with the "just as good-looking in person as he is on the big screen" Greiner at a US Weekly reporter-heavy Ford promotional event here).

Speckled with musical interludes by New Orleans legend Dr. John, Starbucks jokes aplenty, a moving tribute to the late Ray Anderson, and appearances by Angela from “Who’s the Boss?” (AKA the always passionate Judith Light), “Mountain of the Cannibal God” star Stacey Keach, and US Green Building Council honcho Rick Fedrizzi, there were plenty of inspiring speeches and presentations throughout the three-hour-long event (MNN was a media sponsor, by the way). I particularly enjoyed Grenier's acceptance speech in which he equated environmental activism with the childhood task of cleaning your room. Naturally, he thanked his mom.

For me, the awards were a chance to better familiarize myself with Global Green’s latest campaigns. Since its inception in 1993 as the American arm of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Green Cross International, Global Green has been busy with its hands in many noteworthy pots across the country. In recent years, the organization, under the leadership of Matt Petersen, has focused heavily on rebuilding efforts in New Orleans with campaigns like the Holy Cross Project, Build It Back Green, the Green Schools Initiative, and now, NOLA Wise, a brand new Global Green-managed project.

Focusing on energy-saving retrofits of existing homes instead of the creation of energy-efficient new homes, Department of Energy-funded, City of New Orleans-partnered NOLA Wise bills itself as a “one stop shop for a snug, safe and energy efficient home.” Essentially, it’s a comprehensive home weatherization program for New Orleans homeowners that begins with an affordable, totally non-invasive home energy assessment (blower door and duct blaster tests included) performed by a HERS (Home Energy Rating System)-certified professional working in partnership with NOLA Wise. Like most home energy assessments, the next step involves the home performance professional generating a detailed list of recommended energy-saving upgrades/retrofits (think: adding/replacing insulation, installing energy efficient lighting, sealing leaks, etc.) along with estimated costs along with ROI projections. And by the way, the "Wise" in NOLA Wise stands for "worthwhile investments save energy."

Of course, New Orleans homeowners can do what they want with these recommendations and other energy-related tips and tidbits that they've learned from the assessment. In the event that they do choose to proceed with any upgrade projects, NOLA Wise gives homeowners access, via Entergy’s EnergySmart program, to cost-lowering incentives and financing options including low-interest loans. And beyond that, NOLA Wise has partnered with Green Coast Enterprises to ensure that any actual work performed is top-notch and done through a network of Building Performance Institute-certified contractors. All and all, Global Green estimates that through a visit from the NOLA Wise team, New Orleans homeowners have the opportunity to reduce their utility use by 15 percent or more.

Even if you don’t live in the Big Easy, I recommend checking out the resource-filled NOLA Wise website to familiarize yourself with the nuts and bolts of how a comprehensive, one-stop home weatherization service operates (hate to remind everyone but winter is just around the corner so it's well worth looking into). The next step? Seek out an energy assessment provider in your own neck of the woods. For that, I recommend checking out EnergyStar's database of home energy raters, RESNET's certified rater directory, or contacting your local utility company. Or you can always go the DIY route and perform your own home energy assessment. It could provide for a fun diversion from all that holiday cooking and cleaning!

And of course, click here to find out more about all of Global Green’s people-helping, community-building, climate change-busting initiatives — I’m eyeing the Coalition for Resource Recovery pilot program here in NY — and how you can get involved.

Video Screenshot: Global Green/YouTube

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

NOLA Wise: Home weatherization made easy in the Big Easy
Some home weatherization inspiration before the cold months kick in: Global Green partners with the City of New Orleans to launch NOLA Wise, a turn-key home ene